Car clamping

Today we learn that the government is thinking about stopping private car park owners from wheel clamping those who break the rules. If it’s wrong for the private sector, why isn’t it wrong for the public sector as well?
I can accept that in busy places the public sector needs the power to remove a vehicle that has parked dangerously or in a way which blocks an important route. I cannot see a good reason for clamping. It delays the driver and adds to the cost of getting back to normal. Above all it means the car occupies the offending spot for longer, when the aim of the parking regime is for the person to park there for a shorter time.
The government has many ways to get money off the illegal parker, and has a record of the car and the address of its owner. That should be quite enough to get the money out of the offender, without needing to clamp the car as well.

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19 Comments

  1. Chris
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    There have been complaints about private car clamping for years and despite the fact that MPs have not exactly been stretched by legislation this session nothing ever gets done. I suspect more pre-election promises.

    Another scandal is the private parking industry where companies attempt to defraud people who have parked “illegally” in some supermarket or fast food place and therefore have to pay a “fine”. The DVLA happily passes details to these “enforcers” for a small fee each time.

    If anyone gets one of these ignore it, despite threats they cannot do anything. More importantly ask the DVLA for details of the request. Hopefully if they get enough of them to make it a burden they will either put up the cost or realise its not so profit making after all.

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Much of the problem is the view that drivers are there as an extra revenue stream.

    You’re quite correct about the problems caused by clamping, but towing away needs to be considered a last resort on the grounds of safety, rather than another chunk of money raised.

    We have already learned to distrust cameras (and those who operate them), so don’t want to encourage more use of them to penalise drivers without use of clamps or towing away.

    What we really need is a proper balance, so that when an attempt is made to punish driver without due cause, the person who issued the penalty is properly penalised. If someone tries to extort £260 from me for parking offences without due cause, I expect that person to be forced to pay the £260 from their own pocket.

    Any penalty issued without proof should not be sustained, and any parking “offence” would have to be committed for a minimum period of time (say five minutes) to be enforcable.

    If those inflicting the plethora of petty rules on us were made accountable in this way, they would think twice about issuing malevolent parking penalties. It would also help to bring the price of the penalties down to a reasonable level.

    We have to change the way that the Public are treated if any penalty system is ever going to be trusted.

  3. Chris lancashire
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    In my area the DVLA regularly uses clamping on untaxed vehicles and a great idea it is. Most of such vehicles are probably also uninsured and the owners unlikely to respond to any other sanction. I agree, however, that for minor parking infringements, clamping is disproportionate.

  4. StevenL
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    In London thousands of drivers have registered their cars using false names and addresses, no one wants to open this particular can of worms.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted August 22, 2009 at 4:57 am | Permalink

      Indeed, if you drive a ‘clunker’ with a few months MOT and tax on it worth only a few hundred quid you can get minimal insurance cover and indeed happily ignore speeding fines, parking charges, congestion charge etc etc with almost no fear of any prosecution if you have the car in a false name.

      Then after a few months simply scrap and repeat. I am not advocating this of course, but as Tacitus observed two millenia ago, the more rules, the more opportunity for corruption.

      • StevenL
        Posted August 24, 2009 at 12:50 am | Permalink

        I’m not sure a lot of these people either drive clunkers or buy insurance Stuart.

        • Stuart Fairney
          Posted August 24, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

          No indeed, but if you were calculating, a car with the basic tax, mot and insurance in place is immune from the ANPR equipment, but you could happily ignore congestion charges, speeding fines, parking tickets etc with almost no chance of detection By the time anyone caught up, you could be on to the next clunker, but your point is a fair one.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    John

    I am getting a little bit worried about you.

    Politicians are not thought of as having much commonsense, given the very complex and often unworkable policies they introduce.

    You seem to be breaking the mould on many occassions. Even worse, you seem to be catching the same mental attitude that many of us surfs in the lower orders hold.

    Do you think your fellow politicians are likely to be catching the same mental illness, because we could do with a pandemic of commonsense.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted August 21, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Yesterday I remarked mildly to my wife at lunch that it might be a good idea to have a look at our investments (all with the Nationwide). She wanted to know why. I tried, oh how I tried, to explain the imminent danger of inflation in two short sentences. At the end she told me that I spent too much time of John Redwood’s blog and it was making me “strange”.
      Worrying.
      Very worrying…..

  6. IanVisits
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I would be happy to see a ban on clamping – so long as the laws on when something can be deemed to be abandoned is also changed.

    If you “dump” your car on my private property and leave it there without even having the courtesy of asking me if that is acceptable, I should have the right to presume it is abandoned within 30 minutes and call in a company to remove it and depose as appropriate.

    I’ll never understand the arrogance of motorists who seem to think that they have some right to use other people’s private property as their personal space on a whim.

    • APL
      Posted August 21, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      IanVisits: “.. right to use other people’s private property as their personal space on a whim.”

      Private property is a concept that is pretty much dead in this country. The Tory party has not defended the concept, too busy arguing the merits of being a nice or a nasty party.

  7. Olaf
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    “The government has many ways to get money off the illegal parker, and has a record of the car and the address of its owner”.

    You’re making an assumption that the car will be registered to the driver and that their details will be up-to-date. Reality is that the regular parking offenders do not register their cars to themselves and do not keep the DVLA informed of their current address.

    So once again the gov will target those who make the occasional error but are generally law abiding and have cars register correctly. The unregistered driver will probably get away with it because the process of tracking them down is not economical.

    As usual the target is ‘low hanging fruit’.

    This is the sort of thing that, basically, p!sses off the majority of us!

  8. David Cooper
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    There is another wider issue here, where the phrase “those who break the rules” needs closer attention in the context of private clamping.

    The rule in question is the tort of trespass, possibly supplemented by an issue of whether the driver might implicity have entered into a contract with the landowner.

    In either case, private clamping is abhorrent – it is little short of extortion, involving the law being taken into someone’s own hands, frequently via the agency of some of the most unspeakable low life in the country, for a penalty way in excess of any genuine pre-estimate of damages for the supposed trespass or breach. The civil law redress for a driver subjected to the duress of payment for unclamping is time consuming and costly.

    There is a chance for clear blue water here – Labour want to regulate clamping simply for the chance to tax it – how about a Conservative manifesto pledge making private clamping an offence?

    Of course you are quite right in what you say about the lack of common sense in public sector clamping. Why immobilise an obstruction?

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted August 22, 2009 at 5:04 am | Permalink

      More pragmatically you could carry around a bolt cutter in the boot and simply remove the clamp yourself.

      Not that I would advocate this of course

  9. pipesmoker
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Yet another law! What amazes me is that those who are clamped and required to pay excessive fees to be released do not complain to the police citing the Theft Act. The offence of blackmail is simply defined as making an unwarranted demand with menaces and if enforced would solve many of these problems. It is up to courts to decide what is reasonable and that means juries, one’s peers!

    The problem is the local plod would not know the law, just be persistent!

  10. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    In the Telegraph at the moment is a debate going on about whether or not fixed penalties should be imposed by the Police on drivers whom they consider to be driving badly.
    Before being almost arrested for dog fouling, I should have been all for this. Now I am not so sure.
    The posts above about clamping seem to me to prove that you cannot trust any authorities at all to administer justice without proper checks.
    We need to get back to the idea of Anglo Saxon justice with trial by your peers whenever money is extorted.

  11. Bazman
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    How many dumped cars got clamped and their owners traced? Little to do with parking or other tax matters and all to do with getting money out of the motorist. If you can remove the clamp without a scratch to it, often by letting the air out of the tyre or sliding a spanner down the side you can get away and no offence has been committed I’m led to believe.

    reply: I am sure it would be an offence and this site does not recommend law breaking – we want law changing by democratic means

  12. DooDa
    Posted August 23, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I suspect there is something unlawful about a private company levying fines against individuals who have caused that company no damage or loss. If they can levy fines, then we all can for anything we might imagine – so long as we had posted a notice. The one I have in mind is one stuck to your car window which says ‘ Any person who clamps this car will have the clamp forcibly removed and a fine of 500 pounds will be levied’. Would this be legal ?

  13. Nadine Jones
    Posted September 1, 2009 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood,

    I wonder if I may please ask for your help in pursuing a claim against a clamping company.

    My car was parked today on a local authority owned car park for an hour opposite while I attended a breast screening clinic. There were no visible signs indicating that I was on private property or indicating the risk of clamping – all of which was explained to the clampers.

    The police attended but were reluctant to intervene as it is a civil matter although they did agree that the park was inadequately signed.

    The fee: £125

    The sheet attached to the parking notice states:

    ‘PAYMENT CAN ONLY BE ACCEPTED IN CASH, WE DO NOT ACCEPT CHEQUES, CREDIT OR DEBIT CARDS

    PLEASE DO NOT REQUEST RELEASE UNTIL YOU HAVE PAYMENT AVAILABLE IN FULL.’

    There are other circumstances (made aware to the clampers) which I would be happy to explain to which make the situation particularly distressing not least that my daughter and her friend (both aged 7) with me at the time.

    If you can’t help if you signpost me to someone who coudl I would be very grateful.

    Many thanks

    Reply: I suggest taking it up through your local MP who would know the park and who to tackle over it.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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